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Holiday shopping, or more specifically, Christmas shopping is now in full swing.  We always try to encourage everyone to "Shop Local" whenever possible, but sometimes, those online deals are hard to pass up.  But how do you make sure those deals are legitimate?  Or even more importantly, how do you make sure the website itself is legit?

When scrolling through Facebook, you've probably experienced ads that appear for a myriad of products from turkish towels, your favorite purse, or the latest smart watch. And if you click on the ad, it will take you to a separate website outside of Facebook.  Most of these are probably legitimate, but how can you be sure?  The Better Business Bureau can help you with finding businesses and charities you can trust.

JoAnn Deal from the Better Business Bureau recently shared with KEEL News several important tips from the Better Business Bureau to help make sure your Christmas shopping goes smoothly this year.

  • Research before you buy. Use BBB.org and shopper reviews to do your homework before paying. Also, read our tips for spotting phony reviews.
  • If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. The top motivating factor for people who made a purchase and lost money was the price. Don’t shop on price alone.
  • Beware of fake websites: Check the URL, watch for bad grammar, research the age of the domain, and search for contact information. See BBB’s tips for identifying a fake website.
  • Professional photos do not mean it’s a real offer. Respondents reported that website photos motivated them to engage with scammers, especially for pets/pet supplies, clothing/accessories, and vehicles.
  • Make sure the website is secure. Look for the “HTTPS” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Never enter payment or personal information into a website with only “HTTP” – it is NOT secure.
  • Be careful purchasing sought-after products, especially during the holiday season. The risk of online purchase scams rises during the holidays because more people are making online purchases, and scammers offer the most popular products for the season at great prices.
  • Beware of making quick purchases while scrolling through social media. Scammers have access to tools they need to learn about your buying behaviors, offering exactly what you want at enticingly low prices.
  • Look for the BBB seal. BBB Accredited Businesses pledge to uphold the BBB Standards for Trust and to deal fairly with consumers. If a business displays a BBB seal, verify it by going to BBB.org.
  • Use secure and traceable transactions and payment methods. According to BBB's research, those who paid with a credit card were less likely to lose money. Be cautious when paying by digital wallet apps, prepaid money cards, or other non-traditional payment methods. Learn more about payment types and how to use each safely.
  • Shipment tracking information can be faked. Look closely to make sure it is a legitimate business. Avoid clicking on the tracking link; go to the 'shipper's website and type in the code to see if it is real.
  • Report unsatisfactory purchase experiences to BBB. If you are unhappy with a purchase, file a complaint at BBB.org/complaints. If you never got what you paid for, consider reporting it to BBB Scam Tracker to help other consumers avoid being scammed.

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